Six stories are introduced by Udo Kier (Melancholia) as a crusty-faced automaton who commands the stage of the title venue, with which a young, disturbed woman (Virginia Newcomb) living across the street is obsessed. Drawn there late one night, she takes a seat amid an audience empty except the occasional mannequins; Kier plays host with the help of eerie mime assistants that suggest Shields and Yarnell were back together, but clinically depressed cutters who altered their act exclusively to pay tribute to Guignol.
Richard Stanley of the cult favorite Hardware directs the first story, "The Mother of Toads," in which a couple perusing an outdoor market in France note a pair of earrings bear a symbol straight from H.P. Lovecraft's Necronomicon, and purchase them from the seller (Katherine MacColl of Lucio Fulci's House by the Cemetery and The Beyond). Without giving too much away, the story then does what the AIP film Frogs could not. It's clearly the highlight of Bizarre — no real surprise, given Stanley's comparative experience.
In the Berlin-set "I Love You," a woman confesses the sins of her past to the husband she's leaving. So prolonged is Combat Shock director Buddy Giovinazzo's tale that a connection to horror seems tenuous, unless its long-time-coming, predictable end.
Cheating spouses drive the next bit, Tom Savini's "Wet Dreams," in which the SFX impresario stages the best vagina dentata scene in cinema history. His piece is the anthology's first to use humor. Ironically, it's also the most gory. In this case, that's a plus.
"The Accident" is well-directed by Douglas Buck and brimming with a chilly atmosphere, but being a think piece, it makes it seem out of place here — graphic death of a deer notwithstanding.
Easily the worst is "Vision Stains," Karim Hussain's examination of a young woman (Kaniehtiio Horn, Immortals) who kills girl junkies, then sticks a hypodermic needle in their eyes to extract a fluid she inserts into her own peepers. Doing so enables her to acquire their most awful memories and put them to paper. Those adverse to ocular trauma need not apply. Same goes for those adverse to boredom.
Finally, there's "Sweets," a highly satiric look at food as fornication, from David Gregory (Plague Town). Trying to lose weight? Watch this as you eat; you may find your appetite evaporated, if not disintegrated. Look for Birdemic ingénue Whitney Moore in the climactic, gleefully over-the-top restaurant scene. And it is a scene.
Directed by Jeremy Kasten (The Wizard of Gore remake), the Kier-led wraparound then concludes, but without a satisfying knot. I also wish the typefaces were consistent from story to story, instead of looking like the producers just bought up a bunch of shorts, which I know is not the case.
The DVD includes detailed interviews — nearly 40 minutes worth — with a handful of the directors, who dove into the project clearly out of love for the genre. Bizarre's weak points could stand to be more, well, genre-y, but after doing the math, the film is fun more than it's not, so here's hoping they get a chance to do it again. —Rod Lott
Hey! Read This:
• Birdemic: Shock and Terror Blu-ray review
• The House by the Cemetery Blu-ray review
• Immortals Blu-ray review
• Melancholia movie review